Colin Powell and some recollections


Fellow islanders who are of middle age and older who wore the colors of this nation while serving in the American armed forces and/or national security communities may remember and hold memories of past leaders who represented the U.S. military. 

Colin Powell who recently passed away from COVID 19 complications is one of those individuals who left lasting impressions on the author and millions of other citizens across the American imperial landscape. 

For those who remember, 4-star U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell was a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and someone who was tremendously popular, inspirational, and controversial during his time in power. 

General Powell, who also served as Secretary of State, was a citizen who had a semblance of civility and general goodwill. Mr. Powell may have become the first Black citizen to become President of the United States if he ran back in the 1990s or early 2000s. His decision not to run was tied in part to his wife’s concern that he would be physically harmed or worse if he ran for office. 

An example of simplicity and promise

Simplicity and promise characterized Colin Powell. While he will be remembered as a powerful senior general who was very skillful at working with people in unwieldy bureaucratic environments characteristic of Washington, D.C., and the military, he was by many interpretations, a simple man. 

Powell was an individual who listened to Jamaican island music while he worked inside the most powerful spaces at the Pentagon. When it came to building trust, Powell consistently embraced the importance of in-person onsite interactions, wishing his fellow senior generals to speak without fancy PowerPoint presentation slides as crutches, instead advocating for face-to-face real-time conversational exchanges. 

Powell style communications are needed more than ever between our Chamorro civilization and the Pentagon

Direct negotiations, face-to-face negotiations, pre-decisional negotiations with real equal decision-making authority are precisely what the Pentagon needs to move toward when it comes to how it engages our ancient Chamorro people and civilization. 

Our island chain has proven itself repeatedly that it provides invaluable land space for the Pentagon. 

How this ties back to Colin Powell is that he proved repeatedly how goodwill and trust can be built amongst critical stakeholders, across civilian and military communities and beyond.  

Perhaps our people may not fully realize just how critical and powerful the collective Chamorri and Chamolinian voices really are in terms of how the Pentagon interprets our people when we speak up more regularly and forcefully, and with real community authority that we inherently own and choose to exercise.

Our collective Chamorro roots and how they connect to Colin Powell’s roots

Powell, like many of our Chamorro families, came from a relatively humble social economic background. Powell, as with many of our family members and friends, found relaxation and enjoyment through working on cars as opposed to pursuing highbrow off-duty pursuits. 

Powell’s ability to be a role model at many levels was founded on the idea that his influence was authentic—and people gravitated to his authenticity and command presence. 

What a guy like Powell can teach the Navy and Marine Corps in the Marianas

Powell could teach the military, especially the Navy and Marine Corps, a little about humility and leadership in the Marianas. Powell’s hands-on style and plain talk are sorely needed because the Pentagon in Guam is too scripted, concealing, and manufactured when it comes to building authentic trust and goodwill with our people. 

Powell’s attitude about people reflects the relative plainness and populist stripe that is part and parcel of the U.S. Army, when compared to the ever so self-important Navy and Marine Corps. 

The Army, unlike the Navy and Marine Corps, has proven its commitment to village communities through its educational programs at UOG and its enduring Army Guard presence in Barrigada. 

The Navy, Marine Corps, and the Air Force remain out of mind and out of sight at UOG and elsewhere. 

Powell fundamentally believed that if people stop asking questions of someone in authority and no longer wish to approach the authority figure with problems and concerns, that authentic leadership and trust no longer exist. He was right. 

The Navy and Marine Corps and Air Force haven’t quite arrived in Guam and the NMI when it comes to building greater trust and bridges of goodwill over time when compared to the Army. 

Powell may have agreed that Joint Region Marianas and all tenant commands in Guam and the Mariana Islands were too heavy on the pomp, circumstance, ego, fancy titular references, self-importance, and overly jumbled organizational matrices while coming up short on seeking the prior, written, and formal consent, goodwill, and trust of our entire Chamorro civilization. 

A Chamorro version of Powell—expect it in the future

Thousands of Chamorros have served in the military and national security communities across time and space. Thousands of our people have elected to join the U.S. Army and will continue to do so in the future. Thousands of our people have excelled in the Army because opportunities were presented, and community support and backing were and remain strong. 

One day, we will see a Chamorro village son or daughter of Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands reach the most senior general officer rank of 4-star general, following in the footsteps of Colin Powell and, when this eventually happens, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone because our collective commitment, purpose, and motivation when it comes to uniformed service has and continues to be authentic and persistent over time, just like General Powell’s commitment to the overall national security of the American empire through his service in the U.S. Army. 

Rick Arriola Perez | Author
Rick Arriola Perez is a U.S. military veteran who has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bank of Hawaii, and the government of Guam. He holds several degrees including ones from UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Rick is passionate about national security and foreign affairs in the Pacific Asia region and runs a blogsite called Guam Affairs at For more information, contact Perez at

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